The fan-favorite ride is based on the 1946 Disney film Song of the South, which has been critiqued for employing racist stereotypes, including by the company's CEO

By Hannah Chubb
June 12, 2020 05:26 PM
Advertisement
Splash Mountain
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

Splash Mountain is a favorite of Disney lovers, but many don't know that the ride is based on a highly controversial film — and some of those who do are speaking up about changing that.

The log-flume ride, which is a staple at Disneyland in California (where it opened in 1989), Walt Disney World in Florida, and Tokyo Disneyland in Japan (both opened in 1992), is themed around the 1946 Disney film Song of the South, which has been criticized for its problematic portrayal of the post-Civil War South and for employing racist stereotypes. 

Disney has been distancing itself from the movie for quite some time, and it was left off the streaming service Disney Plus, which gives access to the company’s films, new and old. 

At a shareholder meeting in March, Disney CEO Bob Iger addressed its exclusion from the platform, stating, “I’ve felt as long as I’ve been CEO that Song of the South — even with a disclaimer — was just not appropriate in today’s world. It’s just hard, given the depictions in some of those films, to bring them out today without in some form or another offending people, so we’ve decided not to do that.”

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

In the wake of the protests taking place across the world after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, several petitions have garnered attention on the site Change.org, urging Disney to change the theme of the ride.

One petition, titled “Re-theme Splash Mountain to Princess and the Frog,” has gained traction for its idea to move away from the Song of the South theme and towards one based on the 2009 Disney film The Princess and the Frog, which features the company’s first Black princess, Tiana, and takes place in New Orleans, a setting not dissimilar to that of the story of Br'er Rabbit.

Scene from Disney's The Princess and the Frog
Disney/Everett

“Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be,” reads the online petition, which has been signed by over 17,000 people as of Friday afternoon. “While the ride is considered a beloved classic, its history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South. There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need."

It continues, "Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks.” A restaurant themed around the movie will be located inside the forthcoming Reflections Lakeside Lodge hotel at Disney World and visitors can currently have a meet and greet with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen in the parks.

A second similar petition has 5,563 signatures.

A representative for Disney did not immediately reply to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Those in support of the change say this isn’t a huge ask, pointing to the fact that Disney parks often update their attractions to keep things fresh.

At Disney's California Adventure, the Tower of Terror ride was completely redone to have a Guardians of the Galaxy theme in 2017. Star Tours at Disney Studios altered its story to incorporate elements from the most recent films in the Star Wars franchise. 

It also wouldn’t be the first time the company has changed one of its rides to remove controversial elements.

Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Anaheim, California before update

The popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which first opened in 1967 and inspired the blockbuster film series, has changed several times over the years. According to the OC Register, “the ride was made more politically correct [in 1997] by changing a scene in which lusty pirates chased frightened women. Now, one setup sees a pirate chasing a woman because she’s carrying food, and another has the woman chasing the man.”

In 2018, the ride was updated again to remove a scene where a bride was sold at auction — another element that was deemed outdated by parkgoers.

RELATED VIDEO: Disney World Announces Reopening Date After Months-Long Coronavirus Closure

PEOPLE previously reported that Disney World will be reopening to the public on July 11, and Disneyland will reopen on July 17, after both have been closed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.